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Update no. 99/03 on ICRC activities in Iran/Iraq

19-03-1999 Operational Update No 99/03

 Bringing Home the Prisoners of the Iran/Iraq War  

 Introduction  :  Iran/Iraq -   ANOTHER 502 PRISONERS REGAIN THEIR FREEDOM  

On 16 March, 449 Iraqi prisoners of war (POWs) held in Iran and 53 Iranian detainees held in Iraq were repatriated to their home countries under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). ICRC delegates supervised the hand-over at Mundharieh/Khosravi on the border between Iran and Iraq: they registered and checked the identity of all those involved and ensured in private interviews with each of them that they were returning to their home country of their own free will.

Since the beginning of 1998, government officials from the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Iraq have met repeatedly in an effort to solve all outstanding issues related to the Iran-Iraq war, namely the repatriation of POWs and the bodies of soldiers fallen in combat, and the exchange of information on the missing. In April 1998 a major operation saw the repatriation of 5,584 Iraqi and 3 Iranian POWs, as well as 316 other Iranians held in Iraq. In December 1998, 195 Iraqi POWs, the mortal remains of one Iraqi POW, and 16 non-Iraqi prisoners were repatriated to Iraq. 

Meanwhile, since August 1998, th e ICRC has interviewed over 3,500 Iraqi POWs now living in Iran, in order to determine once and for all whether they want to be repatriated or not. This final procedure, seen as indispensable by the ICRC, was agreed upon by the parties themselves, and is taking place at present, with an ICRC presence of one delegate in Teheran. The ICRC considers that these operations over the last 12 months constitute another step towards a humanitarian solution for all remaining POWs from the Iran-Iraq war.

Since the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq conflict in 1980, over 90,000 POWs have been repatriated to the two countries under the auspices of the ICRC.

 ICRC activities in Iraq     

In addition to playing an active role in repatriating POWs still held as a result of the Iran-Iraq war, the ICRC is strongly committed to pursuing its ongoing programmes linked to the aftermath of both international conflicts. The ICRC has been present in Iraq since the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980.

Since the Gulf war (1990-1991) and the subsequent imposition of sanctions, the ICRC has lent constant support to local engineers to maintain water treatment plants throughout the country, in order to provide clean water for the population. As well as running rehabilitation programmes for the war-disabled, the ICRC continues to deliver emergency medical supplies and non-food assistance to the victims of the ongoing hostilities in northern Iraq (to the wounded and persons displaced by the fighting) and, in the same region, visits detainees held for security reasons or as a result of internal violen ce.

The ICRC continues to act as neutral intermediary between Iraq and the Coalition States in an effort to settle the humanitarian issues still unresolved after the Gulf war.

Assessments of the increasing humanitarian needs in Iraq linked to the consequences of the sanctions are currently being carried out. Another ICRC update will follow shortly, outlining the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's response to the present deteriorating situation.